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So Who Is The Mandarin, Anyway?

Ben Kingsley in Iron Man Three Marvel

Sometimes when fans go to see superhero movies they already know in advance everything there is to know about the bad guy. After all, everyone's familiar with The Joker or Lex Luthor. However, sometimes the bad guy is some relatively obscure figure known only to scholars of the source comic book — you know, like Bane or Thanos or Parallax.

So, for many fans, the biggest question heading into — and coming out of — "Iron Man Three" is this: Who the heck is this nefarious shadowy fellow who calls himself The Mandarin?

Hey, glad you asked. Otherwise this Mandarin Primer we just put together would have really been a waste of time.

In "Iron Man Three," The Mandarin is played by Sir Ben Kingsley. And he's apparently the leader of an international terrorist organization (remember that vague "Ten Rings" reference from the first "Iron Man" film?) who targets Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark as part of his latest diabolical scheme.

All of which has some basis in the original comics. Even the part where a Chinese villain is played by a very British actor.

The Mandarin Marvel

First debuting in the Iron Man strip back in 1964's Tales of Suspense #50, The Mandarin was the son of a Chinese father and a British mother. Orphaned at a young age, The Mandarin spent his father's fortune to train himself as an expert scientist and martial artist, kind of like an evil Batman.

Left broke, the obsessed Mandarin experienced a serious stroke of luck when he discovered a crashed spaceship, which is kind of like hitting the supervillain lottery. Using the alien technology he found on the ship, The Mandarin fashioned ten rings, each giving him a different power, such as telepathy and the ability to shoot beams of ice, fire and electricity. In other words, he can do everything Iron Man can do, only without a giant suit.

Naturally, The Mandarin has undergone a number of changes over the years as Marvel ditched most of the blatantly offensive remnants of his Yellow Peril inception. They've since emphasized his intelligence and the fact that unlike many supervillains he operates under a strict code of honor, always keeping to his word. He's also died a bunch of times and come back, sometimes with robotic hands or the rings fused to his spine, because, you know, comics.

So there you have it, a quick primer on the villain known as The Mandarin. Now go out there and enjoy yourself some superhero movie fun!

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